Congratulations! Now that your sweet little one is nestled into his car seat, and you’re headed home from the hospital, it’s time to review some very important rules for maintaining the health, dignity, self-esteem, emotional resilience and future intelligence of your cherished offspring.
Perhaps you’ve heard that there is a “proper” way to do this parenting thing. There is.
Intimidated? You should be.
Three days ago, you were in charge of deciding which brunch spot to wander into after you and your partner woke up at 10 a.m.. You were in charge of other grown-ups at work, and they could communicate their wants and needs to you in your language, and (mostly) in a timely manner. You were in charge of simple things, like feeding yourself, and showering yourself, and brushing your own hair. But now? Now you are in charge of 7 lbs of extra human being. How hard could that be?
Well, I’m glad you asked. Your proper initiation into parenthood includes adhering to these very important rules.
1. Please feed your baby.
I’m serious. I know that you just left a very high-rated hospital, and that embossed on the back of every little plastic baby crib was a slogan about their “baby-friendly, parent-friendly, Labrador Retriever-friendly” policy. But that policy include the fact that they had rules about when to feed and how to feed and what not to feed and when it was too late or too early or too close to a full moon to feed. Your red, wrinkled, squishy little love bug might have latched like a champ, or tried to gnaw your nipple off like a psycho. You might be feeding them the opposite of how you thought you would. But one big rule that everyone forgot to tell you, is this: Please feed your baby. You need to feed your baby. Your baby will be hungry. Please feed them. You need to give them breastmilk, or formula, or a combination of both. There actually aren’t a lot of choices, but it might feel like it. Babies can’t eat hamburgers. The most important thing to do is to feed your baby. All the time. Every time they’re hungry. Sometimes when they’re not hungry. Always when you are really freaking hungry. Feed them. Feed your baby.
2. Diaper your baby.
The rule of thumb in parenting is to put a diaper on your baby. Cloth, disposable, even little-pirate-mustaches-emblazoned-across-the-booty diapers will qualify. This one is hard to figure out because there are so many choices. So I’ll make it easy for you. Rule #2 is to put a diaper on your baby. Pretty much all the time. Not in the tub. Though that might cut down on messes. But Rule #2 is to prevent #2 on your carpet, in your bed, and all over your lap by diapering your baby. Got that? This is a tricky one. Cover your baby’s butt—and yours.
3. Bring your baby with you.
Did you buy the $400 car seat? Does your friend have the one that was $199? I bet you have a rainbow-striped, Tula Ergo Becco LilleBaby Mission Critical carrier that’s made for the campsite/organic grocery store/3rd grade field trip, and it’s sized perfectly for you. I bet you can’t wait to Instagram the shit out of your tiny kangaroo baby tucked in your pocket. Right after you stroll down the street with your tricked out Bugaboo UppaBaby G-Luxe Country Mini Bob Industrial stroller. Cool. Too many choices, not enough places to go? Well, yes. Which brings me back to Rule #3. Bring the baby with you. Watch your baby. You’re in charge of your baby. There’s only one “right” way to transport your little bundle of squeals: with you—somewhere in your vicinity.
4. Help your baby to sleep.
Is Dr. Sears your dude? Is the Baby Whisperer your Fairy Godmother? Are you using the latest parenting book to prop up one end of Junior’s crib so that his reflux wakes him up 7 times instead of 17? Good! Are you a co-sleeping, crib-loving, feed-all-night, cry-it-out, dance-around-until-the-sun-shines-onto-your-family-bed-after-the-sun-set-on-your-swanky-bassinet kind of family? Hooray! Someone is sleeping! Probably not you, but maybe your little one? Cool. Rule #4 is that the baby should sleep. They should nap sometimes, every once in a while.
I’m at a loss for why this parenting thing is so hotly debated! Why do we waste precious Facebook minutes yelling at each other about how to properly care for babies, when we could be watching cat videos and taking a quiz that tells us which character from Top Gun we should have married? (Maverick, by the way.) Why are we secretly seething when our Great Aunt Matilda tells us, “I never did it that way, and my kids turned out fine”? Isn’t it more pressing to tell her that you think her cranberry pudding gave you the runs last year at Thanksgiving?
There is so much to do as a parent. We’re overthinking it. We’re forgetting how to have fun. We’re looking to Dr. Google instead of trusting our intuition. And the last time I checked, we all brought home different babies from the hospital. Unique, perfect, gorgeous, little tiny people who are nothing like the unique, perfect, gorgeous, little tiny people that our friends and neighbors and family members have brought home. Because they’re not supposed to be. Which is why it’s so important to follow these four rules.
Feed your baby. Diaper your baby. Bring your baby with you. Help your baby to sleep.
That’s it. Really.
Happy Parenting, grown-ups. Don’t worry about doing it right. Just do it.